Washington Babylon — September 8, 2008, 8:37 am

Does McCain Campaign Chair’s Lobby Shop Share Skybox with AT&T?

There are two great American pastimes: baseball and sucking up to huge corporations. It appears that McCain Campaign Chair Rick Davis has found a way to combine the two.

There’s no Beltway lobbying shop more closely associated with Senator John McCain than Davis, Manafort Inc. Rick Davis is on leave from the firm while he runs the senator’s presidential campaign. Davis was one of Washington’s most powerful telecommunications lobbyists and represented various firms that had interests before the Senate Commerce Committee when McCain chaired it. Christian Ferry, McCain’s deputy campaign manager, is also a former telecom lobbyist for Davis, Manafort, as is Timothy McKone, a McCain fundraiser and adviser who now lobbies for AT&T. Then there’s Charles Black, McCain’s chief political adviser and the “chairman of one of Washington’s lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has also represented AT&T.” John Timmons, a fundraiser for McCain, a former Senate staffer to McCain, and minority counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, has likewise lobbied for AT&T. It’s one big, happy family.

And it works both ways. AT&T, as the Minnesota Independent recently reported, is “the Republican party’s biggest donor, shelling out more than $1.3 million for Republican campaigns this year alone, according to campaign finance reports. And more than $168,000 of that has gone directly to the campaign for John McCain, whom AT&T has strongly supported and vice versa.” As to McCain’s likely policies if elected, a Bloomberg story from July says simply that a “John McCain victory would be good for AT&T.”

So just how close are the ties between the McCain camp and AT&T? Well, AT&T shares a luxury skybox with Davis, Manafort Inc. at Nationals Stadium, which opened earlier this year and is home to Washington’s baseball team. I say it “appears” because two sources, including one person who has been in the skybox, told me about the AT&T/Davis, Manafort luxury suite, but none of the relevant parties will comment on the matter. AT&T’s Washington lobbying office has not returned phone calls about the suite, nor has Davis, Manafort. Repeated attempts to seek comment from the McCain campaign have also been unsuccessful. Chartese Burnett, a spokeswoman for the Nationals, said the team does not disclose the holders of the luxury suites because of “privacy concerns.” But she did tell me that there are sixty-six suites at the stadium, which rent for between $160,000 and $400,000 per year.

There’d be nothing illegal about a shared arrangement. It would simply reflect the seamless connections that exist between McCain and the lobbyists and special interests groups he likes to criticize while out on the trail campaigning as a “maverick” and “change agent.” I just hope they get better iPhone service than I do.

If I hear back from the McCain campaign, Davis, Manafort, or AT&T I’ll update this story.

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